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Take care, avoid slippery steps, slopes

By Airman 1st Class Jack Sanders | JBER PAO | Dec. 10, 2010

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Slipping, falling, sliding and crashing are all terms of bone crunching endearment that come with living in the last frontier.

Winters can be rough, especially if you don't take the recommended precautions.

I can still remember my first day in Alaska. Before I got off the plane, the pilot announced the local temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

My sponsor, the person in charge of picking me up from the airport, drove a large truck and as I went to get in I slipped on the ice and landed rather roughly.

As my sponsor laughed he extended his hand to help me up then said, "Welcome to Alaska."

The experience has stuck with me every year since then. It seems no matter how hard I try there is no escaping the inevitable fall I'll take at least once a winter.

Whether making the trip to the Iditarod Dining Facility or sliding around the parking lot, seems the fall is always coming, and you can never be sure when or where.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million Americans suffer a slip, trip, and fall related injury each year, which more than 17, 000 people die from.  Slip, trip and fall injuries make up around 15 percent of all job related injuries.

Last winter was my first time making it through the cold without the fall. I managed a safe winter by executing a few simple steps anyone can copy.

Whether or not it saved me a trip to the emergency room or just a bruised back side I'll, thankfully, never know.

The best advice anyone can use to make it through a winter here without a fall is one that will make you say, "Duh!" Slow down. Take your time while walking from one place to another.

You'd be surprised how many falls can be turned into a close call if people would take the time to slow their pace. While most people live busy lives and are always go, go, go, it may pay to put on the brakes and take your time walking around.

Your boss or kids may be upset that you're a little late, but I'm willing to bet they'd be more upset if you had to visit the emergency room because of a slip.

Another easy way to avoid dancing on the ice is to use ice cleats. They're a small flexible tool that most units issue out, but can also be bought at most stores.
The cleats work like a glove over your shoes. They stab into the ice to give you more traction.

I'm the first person to admit that the cleats are a pain in the rear, but using them can help you to avoid more serious pains back there.

A word to the wise about ice cleats; remove them before entering buildings; people usually aren't to happy with ripped carpets or broken floor tiles.

If you really want to be safe walking around in Alaska it pays to pay attention.

Watch where you're walking if you don't want to fall. If you know an area is more dangerous than most, take the time to avoid it. Let's face it; there are some areas that are notorious for causing accidents.

I'd be lying if I claimed to always follow my own advice and this year I won't be repeating my impressive no fall streak of last year.

But, maybe you can beat my record and go the distance with my advice.

I challenge anyone to see how many winters they can go without a fall.